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Cadillac ATS wins Car of the Year honors

Cadillac

DETROIT (CNNMoney) — The Cadillac ATS has won Car of the Year honors at the Detroit auto show, while the Ram 1500 pickup has captured the show’s Truck of the Year award.

The awards announced Monday were another sign of the comeback that both General Motors and Chrysler Group have enjoyed since their bailout by the federal government four years ago. It was also an unexpected shutout for Ford Motor, which was nominated in both categories and expected to take home at least one award.

Awards such as these have become increasingly important for sales of the models and for the automakers. These two awards, from a panel of 49 auto critics, are among the most influential.

It was the first win for Cadillac in the 20-year history of the award, although GM has won the Car of the Year designation five times, most recently with Chevrolet Volt in 2011.

The Ram victory was the first win for Chrysler Group since 2005, when its Chrysler 300 sedan won the Car of the Year award, and the first time Chrysler has won the Truck of the Year honor since Jeep took the award in 1999.

The ATS is a compact luxury car that is aimed to be a competitor for the BMW 3-Series cars. The four- or six-cylinder model is a new addition to the Cadillac line-up.

Although ATS sales still trail the BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes C-Class, Cadillac sold nearly 3,000 ATS’ in December, making it the second best selling model for the brand, behind only the CTS.

“At last an American sports sedan that can compete head-to-head with the best that Europe has to offer,” said juror Jacques Duval, a freelance writer from Montreal.

The Ram 1500 had already won the Motor Trend Truck of the Year honors, one of the more prestigious awards. Among the model’s most notable achievements is significantly improved fuel economy. The 6-cylinder model gets an average of 20 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, which is a 25% improvement from the previous year’s 1500 and is also better than the fuel economy of comparable trucks from Ford and Chevy.

“The latest Ram 1500 raises the bar in the only market segment still dominated by domestic brands,” said Tony Swan, a juror and editor at large at Car and Driver.

The winner of the Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Tesla Model S, did not make the list of finalists for the auto show’s honor. The Model S also won the Car of the Year honors from Automobile Magazine. A model needs annual North American sales forecast of 5,000 vehicles in order to be eligible for Detroit auto show award, and while Tesla said it expects to sell about 20,000 in 2013, its 2012 sales will come in far short of the 5,000 sales target.

Other cars that made the list of finalists were the Ford Fusion and the Honda Accord. The other trucks that made the list of finalists were the Ford C-Max and the Mazda CX-5.

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